Saturday, March 9th 2013, 4:01 AM EST
There could be no better symbol of the madness of Britain’s energy policy than what is happening at the giant Drax power station in Yorkshire, easily the largest in Britain.
Indeed, it is one of the biggest and most efficiently run coal-fired power stations in the world. Its almost 1,000ft-tall flue chimney is the highest in the country, and its 12 monster cooling towers (each taller than St Paul’s Cathedral) dominate the flat countryside of eastern Yorkshire for miles around.
Every day, Drax burns 36,000 tons of coal, brought to its vast site by 140 coal trains every week — and it supplies seven per cent of all the electricity used in Britain. That’s enough to light up a good many of our major cities.
But as a result of a change in Government policy, triggered by EU rules, Drax is about to undergo a major change that would have astonished those who built it in the Seventies and Eighties right next to Selby coalfield, which was then highly productive but has since closed.
As from next month, Drax will embark on a £700 million switch away from burning coal for which it was designed, in order to convert its six colossal boilers to burn millions of tons a year of wood chips instead.
Most of these chips will come from trees felled in forests covering a staggering 4,600 square miles in the USA, from where they will be shipped 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to Britain.
The reason for this hugely costly decision is that Drax has become a key component in the so-called ‘green revolution’ which is now at the heart of the Government’s energy policy.
Because it burns so much coal, Drax is the biggest single emitter in Britain of carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas supposedly responsible for global warming.
The theory is that, by gradually switching to wood — or ‘biomass’ as it is officially known — Drax will eventually save millions of tons of CO2 from going every year into the atmosphere, thereby helping to prevent climate change and save the planet.
Unlike coal, which is now demonised as a filthy, planet-threatening pollutant, biomass is considered ‘sustainable’, because it supposedly only returns back to the atmosphere the amount of CO2 it drew out of the air while the original tree it came from was growing.
The truth remains, though, that coal is still by far the cheapest means of creating electricity. But the Government is so committed to meeting its own and the EU’s targets for reducing Britain’s ‘carbon emissions’ that it is now going flat out to tackle the problem on two fronts — both of which forced the changes at Drax.
First, the Government wants to use a carbon tax to make burning fossil fuels such as coal so expensive that, before too long, it will become prohibitive for power companies to use them.
A new carbon tax will be introduced in three weeks’ time, and applied to every ton of carbon dioxide produced during electricity production. The tax will start at a comparatively low level, but rise steeply every year so that, within 20 years, the cost of generating electricity from coal will have doubled and it will no longer be economical.
Second, the Government is determined to boost all those ‘carbon neutral’ — but currently much more expensive — means of making electricity, such as wind farms, nuclear power and burning biomass. It hopes to achieve this by offering a host of subsidies, paid for by every household and business through electricity bills.
What forced Drax to embark on the switch from coal to ‘biomass’ was ministers’ decision last year to give any coal-fired power station which switched to ‘biomass’ the same, near-100 per cent ‘renewable subsidy’ that it already gives to the owners of onshore wind farms.
Click source to read FULL report from Christopher Booker